Boarding Pass

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the March 2009 issue.

Dear Globetrotter:

St. Peter’s Square — Rome.

Welcome to the 33rd anniversary issue of your monthly overseas travel magazine. ITN began publishing in March 1976, and 397 months later it is still inspiring travel, thanks to all of our subscribers, who write in with reports, warnings and tips for the benefit of their fellow readers. Keep it up, and we at the home offices will do our part by keeping you informed of travel news!

Early in 2008 at the airport in Delhi, India, drivers in illegal taxis and their touts were robbing and even abducting unwitting tourists, so authorities reorganized the prepaid taxi system. A year later, with inadequate patrolling by officers at peak hours and the fact that most visitors are unaware of the prepaid system, criminals continue to operate. On Oct. 10 a Saudi businessman caught a private taxi at the domestic terminal and was abducted, robbed and killed by three men, who were later arrested.

The Delhi Traffic Police have booths at the airports, train stations and other major locations where you can purchase a prepaid taxi chit; visit To find the one at the international airport, exit the arrivals hall and follow the big yellow sign to the right to the booth under the stairs with a signboard saying “Prepaid Taxi Local.” Ignore other booths offering prepaid fares.

At the booth, say where you want to go and they will calculate the fare, add a small service charge and issue a prepaid slip to give to a specific taxi driver; the license plate number is on the slip. Rupees are required for payment. Hold onto the slip until you reach your destination, then give it to the driver, who will turn it in for his payment. Ignore other drivers offering to take the chit.

If your driver does something shady, like picking up other passengers, driving dangerously or not taking you directly to your destination, you can send an SMS text to the traffic police by dialing 56767 on your cell phone.

If you choose to not use a prepaid taxi, there is a Delhi government website that can help you calculate what the fare should be between two locations. Visit

In Papua New Guinea, the volcano Mt. Tavurvur has been spewing smoke, ash and even rock ever since it erupted in 1994. In January, strong northwest monsoonal winds caused the ash plumes to settle on the runway at Tokua Airport 12 miles away. The ash is a hazard to airplane engines, so all air traffic was stopped until the tarmac could be cleaned (the rain helped). Meanwhile, about 400 stranded passengers were ferried to another airport by a local shipping company.

The problem recurs occasionally.

Raed Jarrar, the plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU, was paid $240,000 by JetBlue Airways and two Transportation Security Authority officials on Jan. 2.

On Aug. 12, 2006, Jarrar, after passing through two security searches at JFK International, was pulled aside by the officials because the T-shirt he was wearing had disturbed some passengers. It read, in both Arabic and English, “We will not be silent,” which is the slogan of opponents of war in Iraq and the Middle East and originated with the White Rose dissident group that opposed Nazi rule in Germany.

Jarrar was told he would not be allowed to board the plane unless he covered up his shirt. One of the TSA officials said that wearing a shirt with Arabic writing on it in an airport was like walking into a bank with a shirt stating, ‘I am a robber.”

Jarrar, a US citizen, asserted his First Amendment right but eventually put on another T-shirt purchased from a gift shop by JetBlue. Also, his seat was changed to one in the back of the plane, which was heading to his home in Oakland, California.

The civil liberties unions filed a federal civil lawsuit in August 2007 claiming Jarrar had been illegally discriminated against based on his race and the ethnic content of his speech. The defendants agreed to settle the case in late December 2008.

An ACLU attorney said, “Transportation officials have the important responsibility of ensuring that all flights are safe, but there is no reason that safety can’t be achieved while at the same time upholding the civil rights and liberties of all airline passengers.”

Jarrar currently is employed by the American Friends Service Committee, which works toward peace and social justice.

In an agreement reached on Jan. 13, the Air France-KLM Group will be filling three seats out of the 19 on Alitalia’s board of directors. The new partnership allows for a “multihub strategy” involving the Paris (CDG), Amsterdam (Schiphol), Rome (Fiumicino) and Milan (Malpensa) airports.

One bright side of the reduced service by airlines — last October, the average percentage of flights operating on time (arriving within 15 minutes of the scheduled time) was the highest for that month in five years: 86%, according to the US Department of Transportation, which tracked 19 US-based airlines.

The rate was up from 78.2% in October 2007. The US airline with the best record this October was Pinnacle Airlines, at 90.7%, followed by Northwest at 90%.

And something to really cheer about (knock on wood) — there have been no fatalities in the US airline industry in two full years. That’s a new record. Flying is safer than ever.

Credit strict government oversight and new technology. An example of improved safety — when a Continental plane crashed in Denver on Dec. 20, 2008, there was a fire and five people were seriously injured, but no one died.

Since 1958, there have been only four times that a full year has passed without a crash fatality. The fatality risk fell to 68 per one billion passengers in the last decade, and since 2002 it has fallen further to 19 fatalities per billion flyers. In 2007 and 2008, scheduled US airline flights carried 1.5 billion people.

In Singapore, 173 people were stuck on the world’s largest Ferris wheel for six hours on Dec. 23 when it broke down following a fire in the control system. The Singapore Flyer (phone +65 6333 3311, stands 541 feet tall, 98 feet taller than the London Eye at 443 feet.

The observation wheel opened on March 1, 2008. It was halted once in July, with no one on board, due to a minor braking problem. On Dec. 4 the wheel, with 70 people on board, was stuck for almost five hours due to foul weather. At press time, operation had not restarted.

This may break some hearts.

Cunard’s luxury liner Queen Elizabeth 2, of course, in November reached Dubai, where in a few years it will serve as a floating hotel under its new owners, the state-run conglomerate Dubai World.

It was learned in January that the QE2 will be cut in half to have a 100-foot extension inserted. The work will be done in Bremerhaven, Germany.

In addition to hotel rooms, the ship will have several restaurants, a theater and a spa. Some of the famous quarters on board, such as The Queen’s Room and The Bridge, will be preserved in their original form.

Subscriber Marian Downs of Lakewood, Colorado, wrote to ITN, “We have booked several trips through ITN advertisers, including McIntosh Tours, Bestway (twice) and Pennsylvania Travel (through which we have booked three or four tours and cruises).

“We pay a great deal of attention to the ads in ITN and have earmarked a couple of them for trips we plan to take in the near future, with Rothschild Safaris and MIR Corp. We usually travel independently but will always consider ITN advertisers first when we are going to places we don’t wish to do totally on our own.”

Of course, when I get a letter like Marian’s promoting ITN’s advertisers, I’m happy to print it, but her approach really is smart. Here’s why.

The overwhelming majority of advertisers in ITN will be found in NO other publication. And many of them are advertising trips to exotic destinations, trips that you won’t find advertised anywhere else. These advertisers come here because they know that ITN readers are not only frequent travelers but intrepid travelers.

As Marian does, check out ITN’s advertisers first.

Additions to ITN’s website continue to be made. In response to requests made by a few readers lately, we have posted curricula vitae — call them biographies — of all of our Contributing Editors. Finally, you can read their backgrounds and see what they look like! Click on “Columnists.”

The directory of foreign destinations that have tourist offices in the US is up (see “Tourism Offices”), as is the latest ITN Reference Index, a listing of feature articles, readers’ letters and news items printed in all of 2008. For those of you without a computer, the directory and the 2008 Reference Index are available for $2.50 each.

And, of course, you can check in on the online Message Board at any time for the latest travel chat (monitored but unedited) or to post or answer travel questions.

By this point you may have noticed that there are a couple of things different about this issue of ITN.

No, your eyesight has not suddenly improved; we’re using a bigger point size for all of the text. ITN’s publisher, Armond Noble, is sympathizing with our more mature readers who wish to read the magazine with the greatest ease and pleasure.

Also, we’re using a heavier-stock paper for the outside “wrap.”

Thank you, all of you who wrote in to report Mangled Magazines torn or otherwise abused by the post office during delivery. Many reported that the circular paper tabs holding the pages together often were ineffective, so we have done away with those. And some readers suggested using a heavier cover, something we had been considering, so thanks for the impetus.

Keep us apprised of the results. Write to Mangled Magazine, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail Please state approximately when (which month or months) your issue arrives and its condition.

Enjoy this issue!